How To Correctly Cite Your Sources In An Article Or Academic Essay?

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Citing sources is a critical aspect of academic writing and scientific literature that shows that you’ve done the necessary research to back up your findings and credits and acknowledges the ideas of others you’ve used in your works.

Plagiarism isn’t taken lightly in the academic world, and even unintentional cases, often involving incorrect sources or formatting, can land people in trouble. For students, teachers, and seasoned researchers alike, avoiding instances where their academic integrity is questioned is often the top priority.

For students just entering academia, getting the hang of the various styles, formatting, and etiquette involved when working on academic papers and essays often includes an extensive learning curve. Fortunately, plenty of tools and resources can come to their aid, especially off-late.

  1. Understand The Citation Style

Students will have to accommodate different citation styles, which often differ based on their respective disciplines, institutions, or use cases. The most popular citation styles include the APA, MLA, Chicago, and Harvard styles.

Most institutions will include guidelines and instructions about this within their respective student handbooks. Make sure to read it, and if possible check out the essays and papers published by students and faculty members in the past, to get a better idea of what is expected from students.

Usually, the citation sty;es differ based on the discipline in question, for example, when it comes to economics, the Harvard style has long been the norm, and in the case of IT and engineering, it is often the IEEE style.

  1. Keep Track of Sources

Keep track of the sources in question whenever you source data, facts, or information from an external source, whether to prove your point, paraphrase or copy outright.

This might be hard for those just stepping into the higher echelons of academia, with their earlier education and coursework requirements mostly lax. Learning and understanding these standards, however, is essential when it comes to professional research.

You need to keep track of a handful of information, mainly the author’s name, the title of the book/article/paper, publication date, and page number, for easy reference. You can use a citation maker such as Mendeley, Quilbot, and EndNote to help.



  1. Integrating Citations Into Writing

Once you have the sources and all relevant information about them on file, the next step is integrating them within your writing for ease of use. There are several ways to go about this, often depending on the style of citations and other documentation standards you’ve adopted.


Options include in-text citations, which are brief references to the source within the text of your essay or paper, followed by footnotes or endnotes, which as the name suggests, are included at the bottom of each page, with more detailed information regarding the source, author, and more.


No matter what style you choose to use, the key is consistency, legibility, and accuracy. With the use of the tools discussed above, this should be pretty simple, but a thorough review of the citations, once while you are writing and once before publishing, can reduce instances of errors to a great degree.

  1. Use Quotations

If you are not paraphrasing and are using direct quotes from the source material, use quotation marks to denote the same. Enclose the quotes in general quotation marks, along with the accurate page number and source for where the quote can be found.


Quoting materials from other sources can be a great way to introduce different arguments and facts to support your thesis. However, tread lightly and even include proper framing and descriptive elements surrounding the quote to avoid making it seem like low-effort plagiarism.


While using quotations it is also essential to explain them to readers while directing their attention to relevant aspects of the quote, and how they correlate with your ideas and arguments. These are all ways to maintain academic integrity while showing off your understanding of the subject matter.

  1. Include A Bibliography

bibliography is a list of sources an author uses to create their academic work. It is essentially a table of contents for sources and citations and is thus crucial for all types of academic writing, including simple essays, research papers, and reports.

It is often included at the end, in alphabetical order of the author’s surname, with a few other possible variations to the styles and formatting, often depending on the style of citations, discipline, or individual journal requirements.

The styles are broad of three different types, namely analytics bibliography, which documents the entire journey from a manuscript to being published, followed by an annotated bibliography, which includes short notes regarding why the author chose each source; and finally enumerative bibliography, which is by far the most basic type, with the document only citing the main, high-level sources.


Final Words

Academic writing is an art and a science that involves following a set of rules and principles but can only be mastered over time with plenty of trial and error. So, for students just getting started in higher education, don’t be afraid to try and risk failure, especially with the right tools and guidance; the learning curve is much shorter than it was in the past.

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